Rebuild 'at risk' in new Christchurch plan

Christchurch's redrafted central-city plan would put the city's rebuild and economy at risk, the Property Council says.

The council, which represents commercial landlords and developers, says some property owners will leave town and others will have to raise rents if the plan is not loosened up and tax laws changed.

In a submission to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the council said the scheme's "ideological" restrictions on buildings favoured a green city over an economically viable one.

The plan is awaiting approval from Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Council president Connal Townsend said building owners should have been consulted on the how much the plan's "nice ideas" would cost them.

"When building owners get their insurance cheques, the risk is they will take their cash elsewhere, and that is a worrying and dangerous thing," he said.

"There's a break-even point. There were so many nice ideas thrown into the plan that it's an incentive for owners to walk, rather than to reinvest."

Townsend said that despite being revised, the plan's restrictions on buildings infringed "common law rights" for owners to replace what they had lost and would make reinvesting in the city too costly.

Restrictions on suburban development would also damage the city, he said.

Last year, individuals and groups, including the Property Council, made submissions on the first draft of the plan. The final draft was approved by Christchurch City Council in December, complete with a softening of rules on building heights, setbacks and parking.

Townsend said the lack of momentum with the rebuild was "unacceptable, given the size and significance of Canterbury as a regional economy".

The submission called for the Government to fix the "dreadful mistake" of removing tax depreciation on commercial property. It also said earthquake strengthening must be made tax deductible.

"There's no incentive now for bringing buildings up to earthquake standards, and that affects all our cities, not just Christchurch," Townsend said.

Property owner Richard Peebles is rebuilding three damaged buildings and has plans for several others but he is not sure it will be economic to replace all 24 that he lost.

"We are trying to get on with the rebuild, but it's incredibly frustrating," he said.

"In some cases, it takes longer to get the building consent than it does to actually rebuild the building."

Although Peebles liked many aspects of the revised city plan, he believed the processes had stymied the rebuild and the city council's urban design panel was "just another layer of bureaucracy".

Property owners taking their money elsewhere was a "massive concern".

"I'm quite experienced, but even for me, it's mind-numbingly difficult, with the new costs and the rules and the multiple engineering reports," he said.

"The city council is well meaning, but we're trying to get a building up for tenants and they're concerned at the height of the toilet-roll holders."

Submissions on the central-city plan closed last Friday.

Brownlee will review the plan before it goes to the Cabinet for approval, which is expected in April.

The plan will then be publicly notified and presented to Parliament.

The Press